Australian administrator,
public servant and community leader

Born in Greenbushes, Western Australia, Harry Giese was the descendant of a German family which arrived in Australia in the 1870s. Educated at the Universities of Western Australia and Melbourne (1932-41),  from 1944-47  he was Queensland’s first Director of Physical Education, after military service and a similar job in WA (1942-44). He then worked in Canberra for the Public Service Board and in 1954 was appointed to the newly-created job of Director of Welfare in the Northern Territory Administration of post-war reconstruction.

He served the Administration until 1973, in ‘arduous and controversial’ roles at the centre of Australian federal government policy, culminating in the position of Assistant Administrator, Welfare. After Northern Territory self-government in 1978, he became its first Ombudsman. Through the 1980s he was a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Menzies School of Health Research. In recognition of his major contribution to the health of northern Australians, in 1997 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

His achievements include

  • Director of Welfare, NT Administration, 1954-70
  • Longest-serving member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council,
  • Community leader
    Foundation President , Carpentaria Disability Services (formerly the Spastics Association), Relationships Australia (formerly Marriage Guidance Council), NT Historical Society, NT Graduates’ Association, Royal Life Saving Society

    Life Member
    , Royal Australian Institute of Public Administration, Marriage Guidance Council, Spastics Association, Darwin Probus Club, Darwin Show Society

    President , Darwin Disaster Welfare Council, rebuilding community after the 1974 devastation of Cyclone Tracy
  • First Northern Territory Ombudsman, after Northern Territory
    self-government in 1978
  • Founding member of Board of Governors, Menzies School of Health Research, 1985-95

Documentation of his 50 years of dedicated community service, improving the lives of thousands of people, can be found in Australia’s major archives, libraries and universities. 

Harry Giese, family background from 1875

'My grandfather [E.A. Giese] had come to Australia in 1875...The family probably left Germany as a result of a schism in the Lutheran church...They came to Greenbushes [Western Australia] from Victoria in 1898-99...They moved from Reedy Creek just outside Dimboola in the Wimmera because of the drought conditions...The family had moved [there] from Clare in South Australia.'

Interview with Harry Giese, NTRS 226, TS 755, 1987-94, Northern Territory Archives Service, Darwin

E.A. Giese died on 16 December 1907

Western Mail , Perth, WA, 21 December 1907 at

'I was born in Greenbushes, a small tin mining, timber cutting and milling and general farming community, in 1913...Although my parents had only completed primary education, both had a strong conviction of the worth of education and wanted their children to extract full value from the services available to them. Country children, from the end of World War I, could obtain a primary and secondary education which enabled them to go on to achieve the highest educational levels. Western Australia had then, arguably, one of the best rural education services in Australia, combined with a generous scholarship system of entry into secondary education. It also had a free University, the only such institution in the British Empire, and by the time I was ready for tertiary education [at the University of Western Australia], an equally generous bursary system was provided by the major benefactor of the University, Sir Winthrop Hackett.

My father was killed by a falling tree when I was fourteen years old and in second year at Bunbury High School. My mother, with three children under fifteen years of age to maintain and educate, since there were then no widows' pensions or child endowment payments, sold the family interests in several small tin mines, a garage and mail carrying business, and moved to Perth, where she purchased a combined corner store and house...

The late 1920s and early 1930s were a period of great social, political and economic change marked by the effects of the massive Depression Western Australia suffered, particularly in the rural areas.'

The Guild's Silver Jubilee , by Harry Giese, Guild President 1938, in Student Days: the University of Western Australia Student Guild: A Collection of Memoirs , edited by Julie Quinlivan, Perth, 1988 

See also STRUCK BY FALLING TREE, MAN FATALLY INJURED, Western Argus, 29 November 1927 and Kalgoorlie Miner, 23 November 1927 at 

Harry Giese's sporting achievements and early career

Sporting Round-Up, FITNESS OFFICER'S RECORD, The West Australian , 31 August 1950 at



STATE SWIMMING STARS IN FILM, The Courier-Mail , 16 May 1947 at

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA RUGBY CLUB, First Grand Final winning team, 1935 at

RUGBY SURPRISES IN "A" GRADE, University defeats South Perth, The West Australian , 24 May 1937 at

TENNIS, HIGH SCHOOL ANNUAL TOURNAMENT,  Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express , 25 February 1929 at  

GREENBUSHES. SCHOOL FOOTBALL, Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express , 25 June 1926 at